Democratic Republic of Congo
UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ aid crisis in DRC
A humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo is worsening and has reached catastrophic levels in some parts of the country, with millions facing severe hunger, the UN Security Council warned on Thursday.
At least 13.1 million Congolese are in need of humanitarian aid including 7.7 million who are severely food insecure, said a unanimous statement from the top UN body.
The humanitarian crisis has been compounded by a doubling over the past year of the number of Congolese fleeing violence in the country who now total close to 4.4 million.
Council members “expressed great concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, which has reached catastrophic levels in some parts of the country”, said the statement.
Uncertainty Surrounds the Upcoming Election in the Democratic Republic of Congo
For nearly two years, President Joseph Kabila’s regime has managed to cling to power in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) despite pressure from the country’s opposition and the international community. Now, to prevent a crisis, these groups are pushing the president to accept the holding of presidential elections. Under the 2006 constitution, the President is directly elected to a five-year term – renewable only once. The first President to have been elected under these provisions is incumbent president Joseph Kabila in the 2006 elections. Elections should have been held since 2016 but Kabila has pushed back on organizing them.
Kabila’s refusal to step down has numerous analysts concerned that the situation in the DRC could degenerate. The mounting opposition has denounced the state of political stagnation and continued its mobilization efforts. On February 25, a march in the streets of the capital Kinshasa was organized by the Lay Coordination Committee (“Comité laïc de coordination”, or CLC in French). Leading opposition politician Moîse Katumbi, currently in exile in Brussels, called on Congolese “lovers of justice and peace” to join the movement.
Authorities cracked down hard on the peaceful, multi-religious march; three people were shot and killed by the forces of order. An infant is on the brink of death after inhaling tear gas. For Women’s Day on March 8, women dressed in black to “honor the martyrs of democracy, fallen under the bullets of Kabila’s police.”
Deadly car bomb blast rocks Somalia’s capital Mogadishu
At least 14 people have been killed in a car bomb blast outside a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, according to a government official.
The explosion on Thursday happened near Weheliye hotel on the busy Maka Al-Mukarrama Road.
A spokesman for the Somali interior ministry confirmed the death toll to Al Jazeera, adding that 10 others were wounded in the blast.
Witnesses at the scene said the powerful blast struck a street filled with civilians.
“Most of the casualties are … people who were spending time to take tea, there was devastation and buildings were damaged,” Mohamednur Abdirahman told AFP News Agency.
UN office seeks proposals for solar energy enterprises
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Somalia office solicits proposals for solar energy enterprise development in Mogadishu, Kismayo and Baidoa.
Any proposal submitted will be regarded as an offer by the bidder and does not constitute or imply the acceptance of any proposal by UNDP.
In responding to this request for proposal (RFP), UNDP requires all interested bidders to conduct themselves in a professional, objective and impartial manner, and they must at all times hold UNDP’s interest’s paramount.
Eligible bidders must strictly avoid conflicts with other assignments or their own interests, and act without consideration for future work.
Central African Republic
Half the population needs aid
The United Nations is appealing to the international community to help with humanitarian efforts in the Central African Republic.
The agency says half the population requires urgent assistance.
Fighting between various armed groups plunged the country into civil conflict in 2013, and the violence is spreading fast with many groups involved in the fighting.
1 Unicef worker, 5 others killed in Central African Republic
A United Nations children’s agency staffer and five other education workers have been killed in an attack in Central African Republic, the UN agency said on Wednesday.
The team came under attack Sunday while traveling near Markounda, a remote northwestern area near the border with Chad.
“We strongly condemn this senseless act against aid workers who were there to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations,” said Unicef’s West and Central Africa regional director, Marie-Pierre Poirier.
The Unicef said it has no further details.
Egypt, Sudan presidents agree to patch up differences
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hosted his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir for talks in Cairo on Monday, with the pair pledging to boost cooperation after tensions between their neighbouring countries.
Bashir’s visit comes two weeks after the reinstatement of Sudan’s ambassador to Cairo following his recall to Khartoum in January.
Ties deteriorated between Egypt and Sudan last year when Bashir accused Egypt’s intelligence services of supporting opposition forces fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones like Darfur.
One bone of contention is Egypt’s administration of the Halayeb triangle, in a mineral-rich border area near the Red Sea, which Sudan claims as its own.
“We reiterate the eternal brotherly relations and common links that unite the two peoples of the Nile valley,” Sisi said in a televised news conference following a meeting with Bashir.
Russia’s Putin accepts Bashir invitation to Sudan
Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted an invitation from his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir to visit the North African country, Sudan’s state news agency said on Thursday.
Putin, fresh from an election victory granting him his fourth term and extending his leadership of Russia by six years, called Bashir on Thursday to discuss bilateral relations, SUNA said.
Bashir congratulated Putin who affirmed his country’s commitment to investing in Sudan’s energy, oil, gas, and gold mining sectors.
“The president extended an invitation to the Russian president to visit Sudan and discuss developing relations and building a strategic partnership and Putin accepted the invitation,” SUNA said. It provided no date for the visit.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region, and is mostly shunned by Western leaders.
US targets South Sudan oil firms with sanctions
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on 15 South Sudanese oil operators that it said were important sources of cash for the government, an action aimed at increasing pressure on President Salva Kiir to end the country’s conflict and humanitarian crisis.
The companies and government bodies would in future require special licenses to do business in the United States, the State Department said.
“The South Sudanese Government, and corrupt official actors, use this revenue to purchase weapons and fund irregular militias that undermine the peace, security, and stability of South Sudan,” the department said in a statement.
The groups on the list “are involved in activities that are contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States,” according to a related Department of Commerce document published on Wednesday.
The South Sudanese government was not immediately available to comment.
South Sudan’s economy is among the victims of the conflict
As the armed conflict rages on, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is looking for ways to revive the economy. The solution he came up with was to replace the finance minister. But will that help?
Economists say the reason South Sudan’s economy is in disarray is instability. The only way to revive the economy, they argue, is to restore peace and stability, thereby giving production a chance and encouraging investors to come back to the country.
Last week, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir sacked and immediately replaced his long serving Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau with Salvatore Garang, himself a formerly sacked undersecretary at the finance ministry. Kiir said at the time that a change in the leadership of the finance ministry will help the economy along. At the swearing-in ceremony of his new minister he said: “We have lost the value of our currency and there is nothing that we can do soon to gain the value of our currency unless we produce. This is a challenge that is ahead of you and you must think very hard on how to get out of this.”
UN presses on with bid to restart Western Sahara talks
The UN Security Council on Wednesday told the peace envoy for Western Sahara to press on with talks on relaunching negotiations to settle the dispute over the North African territory.
Horst Koehler met with the council behind closed doors to report on his meetings with representatives from Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania as well as the Polisario Front seeking independence for Western Sahara.
Council members expressed “their full support” for Koehler’s diplomatic efforts to “relaunch the negotiating process with a new dynamic and a new spirit,” said the council president, Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.
AU READY TO SETTLE WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE
The African Union is ready to propose a settlement to the decades-long Western Sahara dispute.
This is unsettling Morocco, the newest member of the continental organisation. Morocco has been illegally occupying its neighbour since 1975.
Morocco has expressed its displeasure at AU commissioner Moussa Faki leading a delegation to the region to prepare a Western Sahara solution.
When Morocco joined the AU last year, it was expected it would be pressed to keep its 30-year promise to hold a referendum, which will allow the people of Western Sahara to decide on their future.
Fraud At Swazi Deputy PM’s Office
The Deputy Prime Minister’s Office in Swaziland is in a financial mess; money is given to those who do not deserve it and withheld from those who do, overtime payments have been made fraudulently and rents not collected.
This is contained in the annual report of the Auditor General.
The DPM Office oversees the kingdom’s national policy that supports effect delivery of Government services, ‘through a well-coordinated decentralized system with a special emphasis on a comprehensive social welfare system, gender mainstreaming, children issues as well as proactive disaster preparedness’, according to the report.
The report which covers the year ending March 2017 stated there are no working guidelines on how to award disability grants yet the DPM’s Office gave out of E12.46 million (about US$1 million) to the three years ending March 2016.
MPs Say Anti-Corruption Body ‘Corrupt’
Members of Parliament in Swaziland have suspended the budget of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) because they say the organisation is itself corrupt.
They want a select committee to investigate alleged wrongdoings. They blocked a budget of E13.1 million (US$109,000) until a report is delivered. The ACC comes under the Ministry for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
It happened at the Swazi House of Assembly on Friday (16 March 2018). The Observer on Saturday reported MPs were concerned that the contract for ACC Commissioner Thanda Mngwengwe expired at the end of January 2018 but he still seemed to be at work and using a Mercedes Benz ML worth E1.2 million supplied by the ACC, plus a rented car.
UN throws its support behind Zimbabwe elections
The United Nations on Saturday threw its support behind new elections in Zimbabwe set for July and urged the government to kickstart the African nation’s economy as an “urgent priority”.
Achim Steiner, administrator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was in Harare as part of a three-day trip that saw him meet Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“UNDP is committed to continue supporting the preparatory process for the elections and economic recovery efforts,” Steiner told reporters.
Presidential polls are due by the end of August, when Mnangagwa will face his first major test after taking over from long-time strongman Robert Mugabe, who resigned in November after four decades in office.
Zimbabwe signs $4,2-billion platinum deal to transform mining sector
A Cypriot investor signed a $4.2 billion deal on Thursday to develop a platinum mine and refinery in Zimbabwe, an investment that President Emmerson Mnangagwa said showed the country was “open for business”.
Signing the agreement with Cyprus-based Karo Resources, Mines Minister Winston Chitando said work would start in July, with the first output of platinum group metals expected in 2020, aiming to reach 1,4-million ounces annually within three years.
Located in the Mhondoro-Ngezi platinum belt, west of Harare, where Impala Platinum Holdings has operations, the project will include a coal mine and power station to produce electricity for the smelter, and should employ 15,000 people when fully implemented, according to Karo head Loucas Pourolis.
Africa in General
Russia provides free military aid to Central African Republic — Foreign Ministry
Moscow has provided free military aid to the Central African Republic at the country’s government’s request, Russian Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesman Artyom Kozhin said on Thursday.
“At the request of the Central African Republic’s president, Russia decided to provide the country with free military aid,” he said. According to him, with the consent of the United Nations Security Council committee, the Russian Defense Ministry handed a batch of small arms and ammunition to the armed forces of the Central African Republic and sent five military and 170 civilian instructors to train the country’s military servicemen.
Kozhin stressed that the aid “is provided in strict compliance with the UN Security Council’s sanctions” imposed on Central African Republic. “Russia has been providing aid in line with the global community’s efforts aimed at strengthening the Central African Republic’s security forces, handing full security responsibility over to them and finding a sustainable solution to the prolonged internal armed conflict,” he added.
South African peacekeepers in DR Congo face paternity claims – UN
Five peacekeepers from South Africa face allegations of sexually exploiting women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are now seeking child support, a United Nations spokesperson said on Tuesday.
One of the cases involves a minor who was allegedly sexually abused when the incidents took place between 2014 and 2016 in North and South Kivu.
“All five incidents involve paternity and child support claims,” said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
The latest allegations surfaced a month after South African troops were accused of beating a 17-year-old boy in the Kasai region and sexually exploiting women in North Kivu.
‘Disband compromised Zim electoral body and allow UN to supervise vote,’ govt told
Zimbabwe’s trade union umbrella body has reportedly called on government to “disband” the country’s electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), and “allow the United Nations to supervise” the upcoming general elections.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said this following the recent trip to Russia by ZEC’s chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumbu in the company of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s special advisor Chris Mtsvangwa.
The trip was meant to “observe” the eastern European country’s just ended presidential election.
But, the ZCTU’s secretary general Japhet Moyo expressed concern, saying that the trip had since compromised the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
Ramaphosa signs declaration on African free trade region
South Africa is one of 44 African countries to sign a declaration on establishing a free trade region in Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Kigali Declaration on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday.
The Presidency tweeted that the signing of the declaration by Ramaphosa is subject to the conclusion of all outstanding issues that form an integral part of the agreement.
AFP reported that the signing of the agreement establishing a free trade area is seen as vital to the continent’s economic development, according to the head of the African Union.
“The agreement establishing the CfTA was signed by 44 countries,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU commission.